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Down with piracy: Google search to demote sites with copyrighted content

Some say that the best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google search results. Thanks to the new updates to its search algorithm, it looks like some of the main sites which host copyrighted content are set to end up in that unknown territory — or at least as far down in the results pages as possible.

According to Google’s Senior Vice President of Engineering, Amit Singhal, from this week onwards, the top secret search algorithm will start to include a new set of rules to rank search results: copyright removal notices. In an official blog post, Singhal wrote that the likelihood of a site appearing on the search results pages will now be influenced by the number of copyrights it has violated previously. Sites which have high numbers of valid copyright notices (as reported by the copyright holders to Google) will appear lower down on the results pages.

Singhal says the update will allow Google users to find “legitimate, quality sources of content more easily” — conversely, it will make it more difficult for users to find illegal videos, music, games and other media content from some of the web’s largest piracy sites. It will also enable the search giant to actively use all the copyright violation information it has gathered to influence the results page structure, rather than the previous method which just included placing a notice at the bottom of the results page stating that some URLs were excluded from the list due to a proven copyright infringement.

In the post, Singhal is careful to state that Google will only penalise these domains if the infringement has been proven in court. “We won’t be removing any pages from search results unless we receive a valid copyright removal notice from the rights owner,” he writes. He said the company will also continue to make the process as transparent as possible by listing the copyright removal requests on its website.

According to its transparency report, Google received over 4-million copyright removal requests for specific URLS in the last month, from over 28 000 domains (for its search product alone). And if the list of the most popular sites copyright holders specify in their requests is anything to go by, then websites like filestube, isohunt, torrenthound, and mp3skull are likely to be the hardest hit by the new algorithm update. More legitimate sources like Hulu and Spotify will benefit from the move, through a higher placement on results pages.

Author | Lauren Granger

Lauren Granger
While studying towards her Bachelor of Journalism degree at Rhodes University, Lauren gave into her fascination with everything digital. As she was more interested in creeping tech sites and Twitter than she was in picking up one of those printed things called 'newspapers', she decided to specialise in... More

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